Chasing Ghosts: On Writing Cultural Histories of Tax Law
UC Irvine Law Review, Forthcoming
78 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2012
Date Written: April 16, 2010
This article discusses the use of arguments about “culture” in two debates about the imposition, application and abolition of income tax law: A debate about the transplantation of British income taxation to British-ruled Palestine in the early twentieth century, and a debate about tax privacy in late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century Britain. In both cases, “culture,” or some specific aspect of it (notions of privacy) appeared in arguments made by opponents of the tax. However, it is difficult to decide whether the use of cultural arguments in these debates simply reflected some “reality” that existed prior to these debates, whether “culture” was actively constituted in these debates to further the specific interests of the participants, or whether the cultural arguments that appeared in the debates combined reflection and constitution in some determinable way. Using legal debates to learn something about culture, the article concludes, is sometimes problematic. The article therefore suggests an additional approach to the study of law and culture, one which focuses on the rhetorical level, seeking to map the ways in which arguments about “culture” (and related terms referring to the traditional and particular), appeared in tax law debates.
Keywords: tax, tax history, legal history, cultural history, historiography, tax law, comparative law, legal transplants, tax culture, tax morale, tax compliance, privacy
JEL Classification: N00, N13, N15, N45, E62, H24, H26, K34
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation